A staunch opponent to Florida’s bear hunt, Speak Up Wekiva plans to recruit volunteers to rescue bear cubs orphaned because of the upcoming hunt.
When a Tallahassee judge agreed with the Florida Fish & Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) and allowed Florida’s first black bear hunt in 24 years to continue, the primary opposition to the hunt, Speak Up Wekiva, announced they would seek a review from the First District Court of Appeal. In addition, the group plans to recruit volunteers to “rescue” black bear cubs orphaned by the hunt.
According to the Orlando Sentinel, the organization aims to place volunteers throughout the Bear Management Units (BMUs) that will allow hunting to find orphaned cubs before they die. Cubs will then be turned over to wildlife rehab centers.
Furthermore, recruits will be asked to photograph vehicles arriving at FWC’s check stations in an effort to catch unlicensed hunters.
Speak Up Wekiva’s Chuck O’Neal claims these efforts are designed to “minimize the damage done and protect the Florida black bear from the gross negligence of FWC.”
“It’s a poorly planned, poorly thought-out hunt of a species listed as threatened until 2012,” he said.
Naturally, FWC disagrees with Speak Up Wekiva and their rescue plan.
FWC hunting director Diane Eggeman said the thought of rescuing cubs was “a bad idea.”
“There’s no way to know if its mother is there, no way to know if it’s an orphaned cub,” Eggeman said. “It’s much better if they’re left alone.”
By Florida law, licenses are needed to handle a bear, no matter its size or age.
Spurred by an increase in bear-human conflicts, FWC approved a limited bear hunt in four BMUs in areas of the state where the bear population warranted a hunt. The opposition has been strong, as anti-hunters have cited a lack of scientific data to support the hunt as reason to halt it.
Most recently, with bear permits a popular sell, opponents have claimed hunters will kill too many bears over the quota, resulting in significant damage to the population, However, that’s a charge FWC and hunting groups have adamantly denied.
So far, over 2,400 hunters have purchased the necessary permits required to hunt the 320-bear quota established by FWC.
Florida’s bear hunt will start October 24, 2015 and end when a quota is reached in each BMU or by October 30, whichever comes first. Hunters will have to check-in with FWC each evening through a variety of channels to see if the quota has been reached in their area.